The release of statistics in a research report in the British Medical Journal, showing the data on post-operative deaths – from a survey of 4 million patients, has shed light on the patterned underprovision and risk of NHS care.
The research – conducted at Imperial College London over a three year period from 2008-2011, showed the percentage of deaths following major surgery increasing daily from Mondays onwards, with Friday surgery 44% more likely than Monday to result in death.
Weekend surgery is 82% more likely than Monday to result in death – although here the fact that weekend surgery – which is unscheduled, is emergency surgery, with a much higher consequent risk.
The normal post-operative risk shows 0.67% dying within 30 days of surgery.
Most worrying of all is the result of a different survey in January 2013, where the Health Service Journal asked CEO’s of hospital trusts to rate their confidence in weekend care in their own hospitals, on a scale of 1-10. The average score awarded was 5.9.
The significantly heightened risk on Fridays and weekends is down to much lower levels and standards of staffing at those times of the week.
Given that nature is no respecter of man made schedules, it seems strange that we still in the 21st century, expect life and services to conform to an almost biblical era of universal work and rest.
You’d think we’d never heard of rotas.
It is of course, unacceptable, given what we spend on the NHS and how much we depend upon it, that our chances of surviving surgery are, in part, influenced by anachronistic working schedules; and in part by the sheer chance of becoming unwell on the ‘wrong’ day of the week.
The same thing is true of major public holidays, where one would be naive to expect well staffed and focused care at, for example, Christmas.